2015 is on the way out, and 2016 is fast approaching

I don’t have a coherent retrospective planned out this year. It’s been an all-over-the-place kind of year; if I were to try to map it out, it’d come out looking like a spider’s web post-caffeine hit.

(which, by the way, looks like this:)

spider

What happened this year, then? I moved house in August, attended my first ever Fantasycon in October. I spent a week in a cabin in rural Lapland, and a weekend in snowy Iceland. I wrote several short stories, some of which were published – ‘The Grey Men’ in Black Static, ‘The Fragility of Flesh’ in Wild Things: Thirteen Tales of Therianthropy, and ‘The Looking Glass Girl’ in Ten: Thou Shalt Not. (Early New Year’s Resolution: no more ‘The…’ titles.)

I was nominated for two British Fantasy Awards, which I’m still not over. I occasionally flick through the Fantasycon program just to check my name is still on the list, and that I didn’t dream the entire thing. Older, more grizzled writers might read this and chuckle at my hilariously low standards but quite honestly, these two nominations have been truly affirming in terms of the work I do and the value of it. And I know it’s bad practice to assert one’s value based on how others perceive you (a lesson I need to learn, perhaps to staple to my forehead) but…wow. Someone (or someones!) liked my writing enough to at least consider it worthy of an award. That’s an incredible feeling, and one that I can’t quite put into words – I’ve not yet worked out how to translate frantic arm-waving and the occasional seal noise into a readable sentence.

I don’t have any plans for 2016 as yet beyond writing more stories – perhaps even attempting a novel, if I’m brave enough. I suppose I would like to be a better reader: read widely, read more frequently, and share the books and stories I love with everyone I know, because what better way is there to keep fiction alive as an institution than to shout loudly and with passion about the best examples? To maintain this blog, as Facebook and Twitter have become the default to me and while I’m not opposed to social media, blogging seems infinitely preferable – and who doesn’t want to hear me ramble more about myself at length?

But most of all I plan to be silly, to be creative, and to enjoy myself.

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Happy New Year to all of you. May 2016 bring you good books, pleasant weather and great happiness.

Suddenly remembered I have a blog

early new year’s resolution: actually utilise this blog.

In a bid to save money, I’ve been re-reading some of my old favourite books instead of bulk buying a load of new books I have no room for.

I’m currently re-reading ‘The Scar’ by China Mieville, with whom I have a love-hate relationship. I love his worldbuilding, his ideas, his audacity. I love the complexity of his stories and the sheer scope of his creativity. I don’t love his flagrant abuse of the thesaurus and the way he occasionally bludgeons the reader over the head with his personal politics (see: ‘The Iron Council’). But ‘The Scar’ is a beautiful piece of work. I lent it to my husband, who is not much of a reader, and in a matter of days he was hooked. There’s a section of the book in which he describes the slow, protracted suffering of the avanc – an enormous trans-dimensional whale-like creature – and it’s genuinely haunting, quickly switching to downright terrifying when the bathysphere the POV characters are in is attacked.

I also recently finished re-reading Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’. I’ve always thought of this book as my introduction to short fiction. I’d read short stories before, but until I read ‘The Bloody Chamber’ I’d never realised just how powerful a medium it could be.

I first read this collection at university, having been recommended it by a former English teacher. I was absolutely spellbound: an unapologetically dark, bloody, sensual retelling of familiar fairytales, sometimes aggressively sexual but – importantly, I think – offering its (mostly) female protagonists a sense of agency largely absent from the original versions. I’m sad that I never got to become an English teacher, not least because I feel like this ought to be a part of the curriculum.

The next book I’m going to revisit will be Stephen King’s ‘Rose Madder’. I’m off to Reykjavik next weekend – it’ll keep me company on the plane.